Magazine Add/Edit Balance Falls Off

NEW YORK With advertisers placing fewer pages in print, the proportion of pages devoted to advertising declined in most magazines in 2008. New data from Hall’s Reports, a leading provider of magazine content analysis, offer another indication of magazines’ slipping fortunes.

The findings dovetail with new research from the Publishers Information Bureau showing that for 2008, rate-card reported ad revenue and pages declined 7.8 and 11.7 percent, respectively.

The percentage of ad pages in magazines has ranged between 45 and 51 percent over the past 10 years, according to Magazine Publishers of America.

The magazines showing the biggest dips in ’08 included ones that were already marked as struggling and, in some cases, ended up folding. In 2008, advertising in Hearst Magazines’ erstwhile CosmoGirl was 36 percent of pages, down 6 percentage points from 2007. Other big decliners included Conde Nast’s Cookie and Wenner Media’s Rolling Stone.

Rolling Stone publisher Will Schenck pointed out that when the music title adopted a smaller page format in fall 2008, it lifted the number of edit pages, which, along with a decline in ad pages, contributed to the ratio change.

Cookie‘s vp, publisher Carolyn Kremins said revenue growth last year enabled Cookie to add edit pages. And SmartMoney reduced its direct response ads, which helped tilt the ratio, said publisher Bill Shaw.

If there’s a bright side to falling ad ratios, it’s that it could please marketers who fret about their messaging being seen in a title dominated by ads.
“You worry about getting lost in the pile,” said Bill Bell, group media strategy director, Lowe, New York, adding that if ad content went above 60 percent, “it certainly would raise an eyebrow.”